Monday, April 25, 2011

Life Changes

This is a rare (for me) personal post, and it’s long. If you are not interested in the life and emotions of a total stranger, now is the perfect time to bail.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of my mom’s death, after a nine-year battle with cancer. She was a formidable woman, as strong and determined as they come—and a cancer that usually kills rather quickly almost met its match in a woman who, although she stood just under 5’2”, was always the tallest person in the room, by sheer force of personality. She did not give in to the destroyer easily. In reality, she never gave in to anything easily.

Mom was born in 1925, in Gallion Ohio. Her family came to Oregon in 1928 on the promise of a job, and a house with electricity and running water. They came west in a covered truck, a few years behind the rest of the pioneers, but just as bold in spirit. Her dad had a flatbed truck. He built a “house” with enough sleeping room for himself, his wife, and 5 kids, put it on top, and off they went. The trip took months. They hunted and fished along the way for food, and slowly pushed their way across the country. Mom said that when the truck reached the Rockies it would only go 2 miles an hour, and when it got really bogged down, her whole family had to get out to push. Her brothers said, “Even Ruthie?”—at 3 years old, my mom was a tiny little thing—but the response came back from Grandpa, “Even Ruthie.”

When the family arrived in the promised land of running water and electric lights, the reality was far different than the vision. There was no job. There was no modern house. There appeared to be no future. There was a cabin in the woods, and running water of a sort. It was running in the creek down the hill, and all anyone needed was a bucket to go and fetch it. There was a nest of snakes under the cabin. There was no food.

Mom used to tell the story of the third year they lived there. The garden had finally started to produce, and she remembered the day clearly, when she was 6, when her dad brought a pot of soup to the table and told his family that they could eat as much as they wanted. She said it was the first time she had ever gotten up from the table not still hungry. I always think of what that was like, to be six years old before you knew what it felt like not to be hungry.

Mom was always such a bright and curious person, even starting life under such challenges. She was practical, clever and strong-willed, and in other circumstances she would have grown up to be an engineer, a banker, or a politician—and I mean that in a good way. The family had one prized possession which came west with them. It was a radio. If you know anything about the thirties, you know that families would sit around the radio together for their evening’s entertainment. It wasn’t quite magic, but it was nothing to be taken lightly. You took care of your radio. Mom, being ever the curious child, took that radio apart to find the little people inside! I don’t even want to think about what the punishment must have been, but she actually seemed to remember that event fondly, proud of her own search for knowledge.

There’s so much more I could say about her: how she was taken from her family at the age of 8 (while the rest of them stayed together), about her 3 marriages (four, if you count the guy who was already married), about her dozens of varied occupations, from farmer to journalist, how her children died, and her husbands drank, how she was abused as a child and abused her kids, and her life took just about every wrong turn conceivable, in one way or the other. Suffice it to say, she was a brilliant woman, with a very hard life, who developed a will of iron. It served her well in some ways. Not so much in others.

The last two years of her life were enormously difficult for her and her family, as Mom struggled with every bit of will she could muster not to lose her independence. Gradually the limitations pushed back her boundaries: driving, taking the stairs into the basement to do her own laundry, going outside alone to her beloved garden. She set her focus on other things while her family helped her with mobility and the other tasks of daily life. She made it her driving force to set her affairs in order, to leave as much security, and as little financial mess as she could to her children. It was not in her nature to simply rest, and it was not in the abilities of her children to convince her that we wanted her company and whatever time we could spend with her before she left us more than we wanted her estate all wrapped up in a tidy bundle.

So, those last two years were full of doctor appointments and errands, filing papers and sorting pills, helping her dress, bringing her food, and trying to convince her that she had not left anything undone so she could take some time to play a game of cards or watch a movie with us. She seldom heard us on the last part.

The last six months were overwhelming and excruciating. I had a bad fall in the summer before Mom died, bad enough to leave me largely incapacitated for about 4 months. By the time I was recovered enough to be up and helpful again, the holidays were upon us, and my family learned how rapidly Mom was declining, although she would not yet yield the remainder of her independence. Her body was failing, but her mind stayed tenaciously intact until almost the end, and she held very firmly to the control of her own decisions. It was something we all wanted. Such a dynamic and dominant woman should not be stripped of her autonomy by force, if at all possible. By the autumn, however, we all started struggling more and more with her living alone, and she was not yet willing to change that situation.

The last time Mom was “allowed” outside alone—as much as we could control such things with a woman strong-willed enough to defy a death sentence for nearly a decade—she lost her footing and tumbled from a four-foot retaining wall onto her neighbor’s driveway. She was hospitalized, and by the next day half her face was swollen and black from the impact, and her body battered. That was when her children started plotting in earnest to keep someone with her as much as she would allow. One of my sisters came up from California as often as possible to stay with her, and another had already taken on all of the cleaning in Mom’s tiny house and all her shopping. The rest of us were the “on-call” crew, coming when summoned to do whatever was the task at hand. One of my jobs was being the listening ear when Mom or my sisters needed to talk things through, which was pretty much a daily occupation, and grew increasingly necessary as time went on. Some days (many by the end) were spent almost entirely on the phone.

As the holidays passed, Mom grew more unstable, but was beyond stubborn in her refusal to move someplace where she could be better looked after, to have someone reliable in to live with her, or even to have one of those Life Alert pendants so she could call for help if she fell while she was alone. The Life Alert system would have called the paramedics, you see, and that would cost money. In her mind, any money she had left by this stage in her life was to be left to her children, not frittered away on emergency care, or nursing care. If only we could have convinced her that her money was not any part of her value to us! We cared about her, not her bank account! Nonetheless, we could not sway her, so the challenge to keep her safe grew.

She started mixing up her prescription medicines, and that was when the battle for sanity finally began in earnest. We thought she had had a stroke on Christmas Day, when she started slurring her speech and hallucinating, but when the paramedics came (against her will) she pulled it together enough to refuse treatment. When we discovered that her medicine was to blame, my sister bore the wrath to follow and took her meds away, coordinating with Mom’s doctor and nurses to dispense her pills out a bit at a time, rather than letting her keep the bottles on hand herself. Oh my, did that cause trauma!!

I think that was when Mom determined she would not yield another inch to loss of self-determination. She became implacable about the notion that she would not part with any more of her precious resources to secure her own safety. Then the middle-of-the-night phone calls began. Her physical instability grew, and she was falling almost daily now. She could no longer raise her arms to catch herself, so these tumbles were often quite hard. Frequently, she would fall in the night, and the only number she could remember in the fog of sleep was mine, so my husband and I would get a 2 or 3 a.m. phone call to come pick her up off the ground. This happened 3 or 4 times a week—sometimes twice in one night!! I don’t know who was more exhausted, Mom, or my husband, who often never made it back to sleep before having to head off to do his day job on just a few hours of rest.

Her body was shutting down. She had very few red blood cells at this point, and her brain wasn’t always getting enough oxygen. She started calling her children only to fade into incoherence. She would be talking plainly, then start randomly mixing words into complete gibberish, then be clear again. It was so scary.

Eventually, the stress grew too great for her children to continue on the way we were. We pushed to the point where she was so angry with us she was almost ready to disown us all, but finally carried our point that she needed round-the-clock nursing care. We found a lovely place for her to live, where we could visit and play games, and spend the time together "just being" that we had always wanted. The sad thing was how rapidly she declined at this point. Her 85th birthday came, and all of her children and grand-children arrived from where they were scattered to celebrate. She made such an effort to keep it together. She really was a trouper. I think she poured the last of herself into staying alive for that event, so that we would all have the memory.

After that she went downhill so fast it was unbelievable. I think she just had nothing more to push for, so she gave up and let death take her. Her system grew so weak that pneumonia soon set it, and that was what carried her away. Even as she succumbed at the end, she fought so hard to breathe. We sat for days with her, holding her fevered hand, praying over her, singing familiar songs to comfort her, and encouraging her to talk to Jesus. Every once in awhile she would wake, not always completely aware of her surroundings, always wanting out of bed so that she could take care of one last thing she was sure she had left undone. We couldn’t let her.

I will never forget my mother’s last words to me. She wanted out of bed. My sister on one side, and I on the other, she balled up her little fists, mustered all her strength and demanded, “Just do what I’m telling you!” I think it was the first time ever that my sister and I both looked at her and calmly said, “No.” I admit, these are not the last words a child dreams of from their parent, but given who she was, they were actually rather perfect. She died as she had lived, full of fire, and in her own way, full of love.

The morning she died was surreal for me. I sat for almost an hour holding her hand after she passed. She had such a high fever that her body stayed warm for a long time, and I could not believe emotionally that she was dead. I truly expected her to start breathing again, to wake up and start ordering us all about. Only the fact that I could no longer hear the rattle in her chest began to convince me that her life force had passed, and as her tiny hand grew cold and white in mine, I finally let her go.

It still seems surreal at times. I’ll find myself thinking that I need to call her, or that I need to cook her some food, or that there is something hanging over my head undone, but there really isn’t much left to do. We finally finished with her house a couple months ago, a project largely spear-headed by one of my sisters. Mom gathered a lot of stuff in 85 years. Her irises are growing, but she is no longer here to tend them. The raspberries are leafing out, but she will not harvest their fruit. It is odd. Life changes.

As for my life, it has changed a lot, too. No longer tied to the city by our need to be near Mom, my husband and I moved to a rural home, which we love, and that has made how much our life has altered even more obvious to us. They say that times of trial show you who your friends are. I’d say in our case, times of trial have shown us who our friends are not, and it turns out we have far fewer than we thought. We have lost a lot of the people we once considered friends over the last few years. Some have walked away because we could not give them what they wanted when our own lives required near-absolute focus elsewhere, and we let them because we knew it was best for everybody. Some we lost because we could not deal with the drama of their lives while dealing with the drama of our own. Some we lost for no reason that I can understand. It simply became clear that they wanted no part of our friendship. I feel the sorrow of the loss, but I have accepted that the best gift I could give them was to stop trying to reach out to them and simply leave them alone. Someday I will quietly disappear from their Facebook friend lists and that will be that. They may notice; they may not, but I suspect that if they do, their main reaction will be to feel relief.

I’m at peace. I’m writing this all down and sending it out into the void because it felt appropriate to remember Mom in this way. She would have loved it, even the hard parts. I think of Mom, the good and the bad, and I think of who she would have been had she not been damaged by the pain of her life, and I look forward to seeing her in eternity. When I see her next, she will be healed and perfect, untwisted and whole. So will I. She and I both will have left our baggage at the gate, and I will see her as she was truly created to be—and she will see me the same way. I’m looking forward to that day so much. Perhaps then, too, I will see those friends I have lost throughout my life and we will embrace and love one another again. Eternity beckons. God is good, and I am grateful.

The Dragon Flies

My husband just loaded Dragon Naturally Speaking onto my computer. He might have done this in the vain hope that if my computer did my typing for me I would spend less time on it. Hahahahahahahahaha!!!  Not only do I have to play now with my cool new toy, but now I also have to correct my cool new toy's mistakes until it understands the way I speak.  Maybe if I keep at this long enough, eventually it will start to correct my mistakes. For now, however, the Dragon still needs its hand (paw, foot, claw...?) held, and this post has taken at least five times longer to finish than it would have had I typed it myself! It's pretty fun though, and I think I'm going to enjoy this. Don't know if that'll make me blog any more, but, since I post about once every three to six months as it is, it certainly can't make me blog any less!  (A terrible pun about dragon my tail just came to mind, which I will almost spare you.)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mobile Web

It looks like the Internet will be coming soon to a dashboard near you.  First reaction:  I suppose this kind of advancement--if you want to call it that--is inevitable, but until cars drive themselves, I'm not so sure Internet access in the dashboard is such a great idea.  (Even if it's designed not to work when the car is moving, people always find ways to bypass roadblocks, so to speak.) 

Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but I can see parents who want to keep their kids quiet on the road being motivated to get past the "no-net-surfing-while-in-motion" limitation.  A cottage industry will spring up to hack the web-on-wheels, leading to one or two deaths somewhere in LA, or Chicago.  This will spark Congressional hearings.  Then some random regulatory agency (probably the Department of Agriculture) will step in to put tighter controls on how all of us drive, and internal monitors in our vehicles to watch our every move while we're on the road, followed by a push to automate driving, with self-driving cars attached to a centrally-controlled grid, like in Methuselah's Children.  Eventually, we'll have to file trip permits with a giant centralized bureaucracy to go to the grocery store.  All of this because some car manufacturer thought we might want to search Google Maps on the road while heading to Aunt Tilly's house!  When will the madness end?!  There is one bright spot, however.  It sure would shorten long-distance trips having a self-driving car taking the night shift!

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Imagine having a dream that, if fulfilled, could truly change the world for the better.  Now imagine that you have the knowledge, understanding and determination to possibly pull it off.  Why shouldn't you?  You've changed the world before.  Wouldn't it be amazing to live that kind of life?  Wouldn't it be amazing to change the world--for the better? 

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Green Police

I was reminded today of the "Green Police" ad that Audi has been running.  (Saw it last week, as well as during the Super Bowl.)  Anyone besides me have a hard time understanding how the decision-makers at Audi could actually think this commercial is a good idea?  Does it make you want to run right out and buy their clean-burning diesel vehicle, or does it make you want to start a tire fire and roast non-organic baby seals over the open flame?  I'm not saying composting, energy conservation and using less chemicals aren't good things--I think they are--but making a "light-hearted" commercial where a homeowner gets hauled off in handcuffs for using incandescent light bulbs doesn't make me want to jump on the green bandwagon.  It makes me want to take a big old carbon-belching chainsaw to it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Portland's Esplanade

The sun came to Portland during Rose Festival!! Briefly. Ked and I had not seen her face for weeks. We knew the chances were high that our renewed acquaintance would be short, but we could make it sweet, so we decided to head out into the world on a beautiful Sunday to see the sights and soak in the feel of a city awash with masses of cheerful frolickers. Maybe I should avoid words like "soak" and "awash" though. It was a particularly soggy spring around these parts, and the golden orb is even now a little shy of company and tends to hide in her room.

Never mind the rain--let's move on to our city adventure. The Willamette River runs through the middle of Portland, and there is a lovely walk, called the Esplanade, which parallels the water on both sides for about three miles, and crosses it at several bridges along the way. The east side has a beautiful view across to the city skyline and Waterfront Park, and the west side walk takes you along the park itself, which on this particular Sunday housed the carnival that is an annual Rose Festival attraction. The bridges offer gorgeous views of the city, the river, and on clear days will give you a look at our wonderful Northwest mountains. Few sights can top that of Mount Hood in all her glory, still wrapped in winter white, but shining in the spring sunshine!

Now, you know I'm not telling you all of this because I think you're going to be interested in the fact that Ked and I had a fun outing. Of course I want to show you pictures!! Click on them if you want to see them enlarged, and come walk the Esplanade with me!!

The Esplanade designers did their best to make the walk beautiful, artsy, and user friendly. The walk parallels a freeway to its east, but you really don't notice it much once you reach the river. The walkway is wide enough for pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders, and rollerbladers all to share the space pretty comfortably, as long as folks remember to follow sensible rules-of-the-road. Pretty easy, unless you get too distracted by snapping pictures and enjoying how pretty the view is!!

Part of the entertainment along the river is watching the bridges go up and down to allow ships to pass (unless you're in a car, waiting to cross that bridge!) Portland sits where the Willamette flows into the Columbia, and both are deep enough to allow large ships to come quite a ways inland, making Portland a very active port city.

The Willamette has its share of smaller boats as well, and a sunny weekend will find the river flowing with traffic.

My motto: Never miss the opportunity to wear a sunhat!!

I found myself wondering how this tree formed into this particular shape. Wonder if one of our famous local ice storms took out a chunk of the middle some year? Clearly Ked's not thinking of ice here, though. He's just enjoying the day.

Love to see our flag standing at attention.

I found this aspect fun, with all those intersecting angles.

Walking along the Esplanade, you definitely get a sense of why Portland is sometimes called Bridge City.

Plenty of room for traffic here, but for some reason I did manage to get quite a few shots with a minimum of people in them. I love the flow of this one.

The freeway passing overhead really just feels like part of the scenery--sort of like the monorail at Disneyland. Ooh! Speaking of Disneyland, we're heading there soon with some dear friends, and I can't wait!! I love doing the Disney thing with other people's kids! (A bit off topic, I know, but I'm just so darned excited!!!!)

Don't ask me why I felt the need to get a shot of rust and peeling paint. I just thought it looked cool.

Waterfront Park has some charm, don't you think?

We loved the look of this ride from underneath. It has such an old-fashioned carnival look to it. Makes me want cotton candy--and I don't even like cotton candy!!

A sunny day will always bring out the fountain-dwellers.

.. and let's not forget the street musicians! What would life be without jazz in a Mickey Mouse hat? (This guy was pretty good.)

Oh, for the courage to be flung in the air...
Nope, ain't there. If I get really relaxed and happy first, though, I can probably get myself to go on Tower of Terror at D-land again!

Here's where we say goodbye to our Sunday stroll. Ked and I crossed the bridge and headed back to our car after this. Nice view of the city from this bridge, doncha think? The bustle of the crowd meets the serenity of a near-summer day. Gotta love Portland.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


I can't begin to articulate how much this disgusts me. Anybody care to claim that if the color scheme were reversed anyone in authority would be defending this?

I didn't think so.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Morgan Hill Retreat

Every once in a while, don't you just crave a good view? Doesn't it fill your soul with something bigger to see something truly beautiful? This can take many forms, of course. Some people thrill to wide open spaces, others, looking down on a city aglow with electric lights, the sunny calm of a desert morning, majestic mountains, or even just fine art, or a pretty face. Heck, a well-designed car can get some people's hearts beating a little faster! Throw in a good stormy beach, and I think we've got a pretty good list going here. I can't resist the pretty. It improves my mood, my attitude, and my whole outlook on life to focus on something beautiful for a little while.

Getting out and about to see the world can be a challenge for me at times. Environmental allergies force me to be very careful about where I spend my time. If I know that one thing on my agenda will cost a lot on the allergy front, it means I have to balance that with safer activities and places other times. Trips away from home have to be carefully calculated for total health wear-and-tear, and weekends away are seldom worth the cost if they involve a lot of travel and smells, without enough fun and beauty to compensate.

Because of this, when Ked and I found out that our niece Emma was going to be in a musical in Poulsbo, WA (west of Seattle) a couple weekends ago, we thought we'd just drive up for the day, because hotels and B&Bs in general are deadly. All the products that are spread around the rooms to make them "smell clean" are nothing more than migraines and fevers waiting to happen. Portland to Poulsbo is a pretty considerable amount of time in the car for two hours in a theater, but Emma's worth the drive, so we booked our theater tickets and planned for a long day.

Here's where our weekend took a turn for the pretty. Ked surprised me by going online and finding us a lovely fragrance-free Bed and Breakfast to stay at for the whole weekend!! Hallelujah! Not only do such things now exist, but we are discovering that a few Google searches can net you safe rooms all over the place these days. A whole new world of travel is about to open up to us, and I am almost salivating over future schemes of exotic adventures. New York, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, The Virgin Islands, and Tahiti are all high on my list of places I want to explore. Museums, mountains, and romantic beaches here we come!! Well, eventually anyway. For now, I'm happy to have gotten a nice pampered weekend.

The wonderful place where we stayed is called Morgan Hill Retreat. It's restful and pleasant, with a gorgeous view of the Olympic Mountains, a welcoming and kind hostess, good food (Marcia even cooked me gluten free pancakes!), geese and llamas, a pond, and best of all, scent safety! We had a great time at the play, watching our niece steal the show, but it was a profoundly perfumed environment. The woman who sat in front of me has a shower nozzle with a perfume setting--I'm absolutely certain of it. So I can't tell you what a relief it was to know that I was going to sleep that night in a room where I could really breath and sleep in comfort. Our family up in Poulsbo is probably going to see a lot more of us now that we know about the charming oasis that is Morgan Hill!!

I won't bore you with other details about the weekend, the horrible traffic, the fab-but-expensive dinners and perfect weather, the cute Norwegian artsy town of Poulsbo, Seattle's Pike Street Market, the wonderful paella cookbook we found there. (I will, however, make a list for you of all the things I am not going to tell you about!) I'll just pass you now onto some of the pictures and hope you enjoy them. Most are from Morgan Hill, although a few are from Poulsbo. No explanations or captions necessary, I think. (Click on the pictures if you want to enlarge them.) If my camera did its job, you'll be able to draw your own conclusions about the weekend without any more jabber from me!

That's all folks. Any of these make you want to go there? They certainly make me want to go back! As I said before, it improves my mood, my attitude, and my whole outlook on life to focus on something beautiful for a little while.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Namaste In Portland

I read somewhere that most new restaurants don't make it past their third year. They have to build enough of a steady clientele to cover costs, and eventually make a profit, and, for whatever reason, many worthy ventures can't build momentum quickly enough to keep their doors open over the long haul. Knowing this, whenever Ked and I find a new local restaurant that we really love, we try to give it a boost along the path of longevity. We don't eat out that often (honestly we can generally cook better food at home that we find in many restaurants, and for far, far less money), but a promising start-up will lure us out to part with our dollars more readily than most eateries, because we want to make sure the place is there later when we want it. We see it as a symbiotic relationship.

Funny thing is, we often rapidly fall into a rut when we discover a new favorite. Whatever dish we loved first becomes the thing that draws us back, and a craving for specific foods, rather than places will be what calls us to dine there again. We want to be adventurous, but somehow always manage to cling to the familiar, because the familiar is so very tasty. In Namaste (at 8303 NE Sandy Boulevard, in Portland), open for only six weeks now, we have found the perfect motivator to break our pattern of culinary fidelity. Last Sunday afternoon we stopped by for an absolutely divine Indian buffet, so well prepared that all of the lovely foods we associate with India were given new standards to meet, because now every time we eat Indian food we will be comparing it to this Indian food. From the chana masala, to the lamb curry and goat, to the vegetables in curry cream sauce, to the eggplant pakoras, there wasn't a thing we ate that wasn't amazing. (The spinach was definitely the best I've ever tasted.) With such mouth-watering, delectable variety set out before us, offering instant gratification, and the opportunity to taste everything that strikes our fancy, even Ked and I can manage to stay out of a rut--or at least make the rut a whole lot wider than usual!

What makes this discovery especially exciting for us is how hard it's been to find really good Indian food in Portland, that doesn't cost so much that a trip to India to pick up a snack would seem almost as reasonable as dining here in the City of Roses. We learned to love Indian food in England, where it is as common and inexpensive as Chinese food is here in the States, and have been disappointed time and again as we've tried to repeat the experience we loved in Britain. Delicious, plentiful, and inexpensive seem to be mutually exclusive terms when is comes to Indian food here at home. When we have found well-prepared food, it has been prohibitively expensive, or left us hungry at the end of the meal. I remember one time downtown when we ordered a lamb dish which gave us three small chunks of meat in a serving dish full of sauce for somewhere in the neighborhood of $18. $18!! Seriously, we left that restaurant hungry enough to immediately go eat somewhere else. For the money it cost for that one dish we could have both dined happily and repletely at Namaste, where the lunch buffet is $8.95 per person, and dinner will cost you around $12.

Remember that three-year rule with restaurants? I expect Ked and I will be doing our part on many Sunday afternoons to come, to ensure that this wonderful gem stays open long past its third birthday. We're already planning our next Namaste outing. If you're from Portland, I suggest you do the same!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year--Welcome 2010!!

Happy New Year! Here in Portland we saw the old year pass with a little snow (on the 30th), which suited some of us just fine. Of course, it caused one of the biggest traffic jams the Rose City has ever seen, but isn't it worth a five hour commute for the pleasure of seeing the world turn white!?! Well, okay, maybe not, but since Ked and I were only stuck in traffic for an hour-and-a-half, we tolerated it rather cheerfully. We were also happy to see 2009 go away. Not the best year in the Meow household, but I'm hopeful that good things are coming down the pike, so bring on the new!!

We snapped a few photos in the waning days of December. Nothing too exciting, but some happy memories, so I'll post them here as a way to keep the memories handy... (Click to enlarge.)

We had all sorts of errands to run on Wednesday, as the weather got interesting. We went to the County and the Post Office, to turn in our passport applications, ordered replacement windows for our house, and hit Target for a few necessary pre-holiday purchases. Lots of driving in less than ideal conditions. You can see by the look on Ked's face, though, that the sticking snow didn't faze him a bit. Snow is good for the soul!

No one really needs to see another picture of Target's parking lot, but it's such a nice photo of Ked that I couldn't resist.

Our neighborhood looks so much prettier with Christmas lights and snow!

New Year's Eve day, we took a drive to the coast to watch a wonderfully blustery storm on the beach. On the way, we passed orchards and fields wearing the remnants of the previous day's snowfall. So, so very pretty.

The day was uniformly foggy. At the beach it was really more like the clouds were resting right on the water, with rain and wind springing from the solid white mass, but here in this orchard the fog was more like a veil being drawn over the old year. It was romantically spooky and beautiful.

I don't think that telescope would have been much use with the weather touching bottom the way it was, but my camera lens penetrated just far enough to show the wildly crashing waves. Those waves kept us entertained for hours.

The wind was whipping the sand around, creating lovely patterns and providing more entertainment. The boy you see above was having a grand old time leaning into the gusts, lurching forward as the wind beneath his wings would temporarily and abruptly abandon him to gravity.

After a splendid dinner at our favorite coastal restaurant--Tidal Raves in Depoe Bay--we drove home through the dark and were in bed well before midnight! (Ked, at least, was in bed before midnight. I am not a good sleeper, even when fireworks are not going off in my neighborhood!) It was a very low-key New Year's celebration, but one appropriate to the year that was passing. I hear we missed a lovely party back home, one we would have liked to attend had I not already spent all my allergen and energy points on Christmas, but given my current physical limitations I can't complain too much that I spent a quiet day watching the wind and waves with my kind and loving husband. I have hope that 2010 will be less limited, but 2009 went out with gentle cheerfulness, and I am content.

However you celebrated the start of the tens, I pray for you a blessed, productive and joyful year ahead. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Yellowstone Pics Of The Day: Going Home--The Grand Tetons

The weather prognosticators promised us snow for the last few days, but didn't deliver. Boo. All we got was a week of temperatures in the teens and twenties, and a little dab of ice at the end. Where does that get fun? (I admit, the clear blue cold was quite pretty, but nowhere near as nice as snow!) Hmm... need something cheerful. What to do? I know! Lets go to memory lane! I promised myself that I would get my last Yellowstone post up before the old year passes, so here we go. I'm making it with two-and-a-half whole weeks to spare!! This set of photos won't really be Yellowstone photos, per se. These are pics from the drive home, but we drove home through the Grand Tetons, and I promise that the scenery was spectacular. Since it was early July, there was still snow on the peaks, too, so it comes as close as I can get right now to satisfying that winter wonderland yearning. Okay, okay, it's a winter wonderland with shorts and sun glasses, but I'm working with what I've got here!

Enough chatter. Let's get to the pictures, shall we? (Click on them to enlarge.)

Heading south on the way out of the park, we hit a construction zone, for a slight delay. We couldn't get too agitated about it, however. With the mountains in front of us, and one last chance to scout for wildlife, we just enjoyed the last of our time in Jellystone. You see our friends Scott, Mary, Emma and Ben in the car up ahead--or you would, if all our bikes weren't blocking the view. That was the only down side to the drive home--separate cars for the duration. Still, they got some family time, and Ked and I got hours and hours to listen to To Kill A Mockingbird on CD. (Great book, by the way.)

This was our first sight of the Grand Tetons. I was not prepared for the experience. Coming from the Pacific Northwest, I am used to splendid mountain views. I love mountains. I remember being so excited when I was going to see the Rockies for the first time. They are impressive, with their massive block of mountain-ness, but still they left me a little flat. They are higher than the Cascades, but the level of the land around them starts so high that the elevation increase is much less than the mountains I am used to. They just didn't impress me the way I expected them to do. Mt. Hood, Rainer, Adams, Jefferson, Shasta, even St. Helens, rise from basically sea level, so when they grow to 11 or 12 thousand feet out of the ground, standing in proud isolation, they are noticeable. (Not that the Rockies aren't noticeable, but you know what I mean.) I had no expectations of the Tetons. I don't think that would have mattered, though. If my expectations had been very high, I think they still would have blown me away. Jagged, sharp, abrupt, and tall, the Tetons are stunningly beautiful, and line up mountain after mountain in majestic array. I very much want to go back when we have more time to explore and camp. I think they need to be soaked in a bit.

Uh oh! The sign says not to feed the wildlife, but Emma's getting hungry...

Yay for maps! Where would we be without them? I assume we'd be somewhere, but we might not know where that somewhere was!

I'll just post a bit of beautifulness now.

More of the pretty.

Are you packing yet? One of the fun parts of this shot for me, besides capturing a shot of our friends heading into the gorgeous scene ahead, is the fact that I took that picture from a moving car, just by sticking my hand out the window and holding it as steady as I could. Came out pretty well, don't you think?

Here's a shot at Jenny Lake. This spot was so beautiful, and one of the places where a few extra days to find a campsite and start hiking would not have offended me. I was probably the only one on the trip who really did not feel ready to come home by this point, after almost two weeks, but I just couldn't make myself want to return to real life when views like this were right in front of me.

What do they say? "The family that rolls around on animals pelts together... " Nah. That can't be it. Looks like they're enjoying it, though.

Come on, guys. I know we've been living in close quarters for quite a while, but there's only a couple of days left!

Here she is--Little Big Horn.

Stopping for dinner, and a drum lesson.

Can you tell we are in Wyoming?

I can't remember the name of the dam, but I remember the name of the store!

We saw these tubes on trains and trucks on the drives both to and from Yellowstone. The first one we saw was in the middle of the night in a rest area where we stopped to sleep our first night out. It was huge, and slanted, and the only word on the tube was Titan. For a while, Ked and I thought it was a missile (we were sleepy), but later we saw some of these being unloaded, and discovered that there were giant windmill blades and towers inside. We saw them over and over, which made sense because we were driving through some very windy country, especially in eastern Oregon.

Our last night in the trailer--we spent it in a trailer camp at Wildhorse Casino outside Pendleton, Oregon. Not a place we anticipated camping, but it made its appearance when we were all ready to stop, and it had some advantages. Scott found a free wifi connection inside and some free coffee, which helped him catch up on the homework he had let slide the last couple days on the road. The kids got to ride scooters and bikes, and work out some of the kinks from the road, and we all got to eat outside in the dry eastern Oregon air, without getting eaten ourselves by mosquitoes. Can't say the campground was much more than a parking lot with power and some grass, but it was a welcome respite to driving, and stopping there meant we woke up just minutes from Pendleton, which meant one last adventure in the morning, before our final leg on the journey home.

Walking through Pendleton in the morning, we came upon this pretty little one-room schoolhouse--no longer in use, but part of the town's storied past.

Wouldn't you love to have been one of the kids that had to sit right next to the stove in the middle of the room? Whatever you do, don't wear long johns!

Pendleton looked pretty charming from where our lens was sitting.

We ate at the Main Street Diner. Betty Boop wasn't the only nostalgic icon to meet our gaze...

Elvis, James Dean, Marylin Monroe, and Superman were among the luminaries to grace our environment. It was fun and (here's that word again) charming. Emma doesn't look like she's enjoying it, though, does she? Right now she looks like she's thinking, "Really? That's all you serve--liver?"

I'm happy that our last picture all together on our Yellowstone adventure turned out to be a keeper! Shiny, happy people, smelling hotcakes!

Here Ked and I pulled in for a quick stop along the Columbia River. Remember all those windmills in transit from earlier? Right across the road from me there are a bunch of them, already put together. I'll give you one look at my bangs to guess why this is a good spot for windmills!

Well, that's all folks. I dragged the memories of this trip out over almost 6 months, and (if you look at it from a positive perspective, rather than a "gee, it took you long enough" angle) got as much out of this vacation as I possibly could! I kind of liked blogging it this slowly. It kept a really special experience fresh in my head, and since this has been one of the hardest years I've had in a long time, was a good reminder that "everything happens." (Major bonus points if you know the source of that quote.) Good and bad both come. There is a time to laugh and a time to mourn, etc. 2009 has had more tears than most of my years to date, and fewer consolations, but it's also had some things that have really made me grateful. Our Yellowstone trip, with kind, loving and accepting friends was right up there next to finding out that my husband did NOT have pancreatic cancer. I treasure the memories, and am grateful for a way to preserve them in pictures, in my own little corner of the blogosphere.
This seems a good way to draw 2009 near to its close, by remembering the good, acknowledging a little of the bad, and praying that Ked and I will be able to face what comes in 2010 with faith and grace. I hope for more memories like Yellowstone, and good friends to share them with, to balance out the challenges that I know will be coming soon. I hope the same for you. In case I don't talk to you again before 2010 arrives, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year. May God be with you, and give you joy, peace and the blessing of knowing Him.